INSPIRATION JOURNAL ON THE ROAD TRAVEL

Why I Travel Solo

Right now, I am in the middle of a solo road trip. I have seen friends along the way, and they’ve even joined me for a few days here and there. But for the majority of this trip, I’m by myself.

I have traveled solo a few times before.

The first time was in Europe. I was 21 and very intrigued by the idea of traveling solo. I thought it looked so cool and so badass. I wanted to be that girl. I remember being so nervous. It felt like a huge scary thing, but I booked tickets and forced myself to swallow my hesitations.

I couldn’t enjoy it. I was still struggling so hard with anxiety, and I hadn’t given myself any training wheels. I hadn’t given myself any cushion or safety net. I would dread the time that wasn’t scheduled– I found it difficult to go through my day without a plan, and found it even harder to make that plan for myself.

The next time I traveled solo was in Thailand. I was 24 and had just broken up with my boyfriend of two years. This time, I was prepared. I knew I would have to overcome my anxiety. I knew I would struggle with being lonely. And I also knew there would be an emotional piece to the whole thing. Because I was prepared, that trip was so good for me.

A year and a half after the Thailand trip, I decided to head out by myself again.

I did not decide to travel solo with the intention to have a fun, carefree vacation, to get cool photos, or to look like a badass. I did not decide to travel solo because I think it’s the “best” way to do it.

Here’s why I did decide to travel solo.

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Self-Awareness

So much comes up when you spend all of your time by yourself. You laugh, you cry, you feel great, you feel hopeless. For me, I experience all of that in a span of approximately five minutes.

Sometimes it’s really hard to not have another person to vent to, or someone to distract me from whatever is going on in my head or heart. But what I have come to love, is that I’ve gotten really good at identifying my feelings and working through them, whatever they are. Even the messy ones. Even those feelings that, at home, I’d avoid by distracting myself with issues that seem more urgent.

Here, by myself, driving or hiking, I’m alone with my thoughts. The only option: truly listen to them and work through it all.

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Decision Making

I’m a pretty indecisive person. I usually don’t really care what to eat for lunch or what to do this afternoon. Being on a road trip solo forces me to be decisive and to get stuff done.

When I had a boyfriend, I would rely on him constantly to take care of things. I knew that if I didn’t make a plan, he would. If I didn’t go food shopping, he would. I never worried or stressed about things because he was the back-up plan. He had things pretty dialed-in and organized.

Traveling alone, I am solely responsible for my safety and comfort. If I don’t go food shopping, I’m gonna be hungry. If I don’t research a place to camp for the night, I’m gonna be uncomfortable. If I don’t decide what to do on any given day, I’m gonna be sitting twiddling my thumbs without direction.

Solo travel forces me to make deliberate decisions.

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Communication

I have always struggled with anxiety and still deal with it now.

Because I’m by myself, I am the only one who can communicate my needs. There may be times when I need to ask a neighbor at a campground to borrow something, or I might need to approach someone to ask for directions, or I might need to ask for a wifi password. Maybe this seems extreme, but all of that would have made me unbelievably anxious a few years ago.

In situations where previously I would have relied on someone else, now I only rely on myself. Because I have to. Because I have put myself in this situation.

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In short, I travel solo to learn. It’s often uncomfortable and rarely easy. But I have always come out of it stronger and wiser.

Solo travel will always be a part of my life. It will always be a way to learn. Will I always travel solo? Do I “prefer” it? Of course not. Solo travel is a completely different experience than traveling with someone else. There is a time and place for it, and it might not be appropriate for everyone.

Solo travel has taught me how to trust my gut and listen to myself, but it’s also taught me how to be resilient. It’s taught me about time management, menu planning and finances. It’s taught me about balance and happiness.

So that’s why I’m doing it.

I don’t hope this inspires you to try solo travel. I hope it inspires you to do something that teaches you about yourself, whatever that is.

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Megan
    October 15, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Fantastic post, Erin! I loved this: “I travel solo to learn. It’s often uncomfortable and rarely easy.” Learning & growing is rarely comfortable (especially when we’re talking about self-discovery and growth) but that’s what makes it worth it, eh?

    (Also, for what it’s worth, as someone who also struggles with anxiety, I toootally get where you’re coming from regarding the insurmountable task of asking a stranger for something as small as a wifi password. I guess I didn’t realize how much I rely on my travel partner for that stuff until reading this. Going to have to fix that bad habit now….)

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      October 23, 2015 at 8:40 pm

      Thanks for the love Megan! I think we definitely deserve to give ourselves credit for traveling, ESPECIALLY with anxiety! :)

  • Reply
    Dimi
    December 16, 2015 at 4:40 am

    Good for you. Love your first goal, awareness. Being on your own, in nature (in the dark lol) entrains you to a bigger world and builds the spirit (you know that). Too few people learn this inner strength. I feel your spirit sister; just don’t forget to share your journey. Fare well free spirit. The world is your mirror.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      December 19, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Thank you for the kind words Dimi! We can learn so much from ourselves. I feel so fortunate to have figured that out and be able to share it. Love to you!

  • Reply
    Emily
    December 29, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Hi Erin, I’ve followed you on instagram for a while and last night decided to actually read your blog. I feel like I’m reading things an alternate version of myself wrote. Everything you say just makes so much sense!!! I’ve been going through all your entries and just feeling so thoughtful and inspired by them.
    I have to say, my biggest fear of traveling alone is getting murdered/raped/kidnapped/etc (probably too much Law & Order ha)… I’m 25 so it’s not like I’m a child by any means, but I still feel super vulnerable alone traveling, and also struggle with anxiety. Any tips for feeling/being safer traveling as a single (small) female??

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      December 29, 2015 at 10:51 am

      Hey Emily! Thanks a ton for the love– it truly means so much to me!! I completely feel that fear and am naturally an anxious person on top of that. I was absolutely TERRIFIED at 21 when I first did a solo trip, but I have to say that with intention, awareness, research/planning and more confidence as a result of those things, my anxieties have subsided considerably. I used to be afraid to go on a hike solo, even locally, and have come so far! My best advice would be to keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone but plan as much as you can so that you feel prepared. Eventually you will get into a groove with yourself. I grew up with a self-proclaimed “safety mom” and now even she is confident in me when I travel solo! I will be writing more about this topic in 2016 for SURE, so keep an eye out. :) Thanks again for following along!

  • Reply
    Cierra
    May 10, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I just found your blog today through FP and you are amazingly inspiring. I have been struggling with anxiety and depression for years and currently have no idea what I am doing with life. I have been recently thinking solo travel would be a great way for me to learn about myself, and this seems to confirm that it probably would be. Thank you for documenting your experiences! I am going to go start saving now. :)

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      May 13, 2016 at 8:06 am

      Hi Cierra! Thank you so much, and way to go! I know first hand how difficult and crippling anxiety can be, especially when it comes to travel. For me it has been a combination of self-love, patience, and being firm in my decisions. Deciding to do it is the first step! xo E

  • Reply
    Vincent Gregor
    July 8, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Loved this article. Been travelling solo for pretty much two years now since after my breakup and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. Never thought I’d be climbing 14,000+ feet mountains, or climbing tbe highest peaks of a state, travelling to SE Asia by myself but I did. And I’m very grateful for that. Anyways, the “I’m a pretty indecisive person. I usually don’t really care what to eat for lunch or what to do this afternoon. Being on a road trip solo forces me to be decisive and to get stuff done.” line hits me right at home. (giggles) What to eat on the road has been pretty much an on and off struggle when I’m travelling solo. Very grateful that I found your blog today. Will definitely be reading it on my spare time. Thank you!

    – Vince

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      July 25, 2016 at 8:13 am

      Vince, that is totally badass! Way to go – I am proud of you :) Thanks for the love!

  • Reply
    Kristine
    November 3, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    As I am sitting here going through basically your entire blog I just wanted to say that I truly appreciate every single one. Last spring as I found that I was failing half my classes I decided I needed a break and took off by myself for a couple weeks after my exams and not one person I knew could understand why I’d decide to travel alone and I really wish I had this blog post at the time to even send them in the right direction.
    Basically, thank you for being the most relatable human in a time I could really use that.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      November 10, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Hey Kristine! So happy you made your way here. That is such a huge compliment! Proud of you!

  • Reply
    Meredith
    November 9, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Traveling solo has led to some of the most transformative times in my life. Next year, I’ll be moving across the country; I’m looking forward to the solo trips I’ll take on my new journey. Thanks for the great article! :)

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      November 10, 2016 at 10:48 am

      Congrats Meredith! That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing.

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